- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Barry Bonds now has the same number of home runs as Babe Ruth, and that’s about all they have in common.

Soon, or maybe sometime before the All-Star break, Bonds will have more home runs than Ruth, and it won’t mean a thing, because 1) 714 home runs are not a record and 2) if anyone’s place in baseball history is secure, it’s that of George Herman Ruth.

There often is an irrational fear that when someone is passed in the record books, they will be forgotten, and that’s just, well, irrational.

There were those who didn’t want Roger Maris to break Ruth’s single-season record of 60 home runs because he wasn’t a real Yankee.

There were those who didn’t want Hank Aaron to break Ruth’s career home run record because he was black, and they were racist.

See, these irrational types come in all shapes and sizes.

But there is no reason to be protective of records, even if you believe mounting reports that Bonds’ home run totals are artificially enhanced.

That’s because the pursuits of Maris, Aaron and now Bonds have just the opposite effect. They help everyone remember Babe Ruth.

In 1998, when Mark McGwire erased Maris’ record of 61 home runs in a season, Maris’ children were sitting in the front row at Busch Stadium.

Three years later, Billy Crystal made an average HBO movie about Maris and Mickey Mantle called “61*.”

You think Maris, who never hit more than 39 homers in another season and totaled just 275 in his career, would have had have a movie made about him if not for McGwire and Sammy Sosa? Everyone was thrilled to watch Maris pull out clumps of his hair all over again.

The same goes for Ruth.

As long as there is baseball, Babe Ruth will be its most important figure.

When Ruth hit 29 home runs in 1919, his last season with the Red Sox, it was the single-season record.

The next season, with the Yankees, he hit 54, four more than any other American League team.

In 1927, Ruth hit 60 home runs, still more than any other American League team.

Ruth changed the way the game was played.

Before him, the home run was not a significant part of the game. After him, it was.

He did all of this after four seasons as a dominant pitcher with the Red Sox. He was Barry Bonds and Pedro Martinez.

There was only one Babe Ruth.

Don’t forget it.

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